Monday, February 29, 2016

On Failure (and Writing Anyway)

via Pinterest
     They’re days and then they are days--days when I feel like I’ll never write again, never get another good idea, never turn said good idea into a decent story. Days when I look back at the piles of crappy first drafts and false starts and wonder if I’ve really gotten any better. Days when I see that I’ve whined about it all so many times before and nothing changed and, yep, my blog’s going completely to pot…

And after those days I almost always remember that the problem isn’t with my ideas, or even with my writing ability (or lack thereof). The problem is that I’m scared--terrified--of failure. Ten seconds after getting a good idea I’m counting all the possible ways I could screw it up.

    I’ve never been much of a perfectionist with anything but my writing. And I’m not scared of criticism as much as I’m scared of my own abilities to fix the problems in my writing. I want my stories to be the best they can be--what happens when I can’t make them any better?

    The thing is, there will be projects I can’t fix. I’ve written duds before and I’ll write them again.
Some part of my brain keeps convincing me that if I hold off for just a little bit longer, all my stories will come out perfect. But they’ll never be perfect. Anyway, it’s the terrible and frustrating false starts that make the good stories worth writing. You can usually tell if a story’s any good if you’ve written mountains of crap before it.

   So what I have to keep telling myself, because I never remember it for very long, is that it’s okay to fail and goof up and make mistakes. It’s okay to share imperfect work. And it’s much, much better to risk writing junk than to write nothing at all. I used to look at other people (writers and artists) and wonder how they produced so much good work so consistently. Now I don’t think it’s necessarily because they’re better than me (they are, but that’s not the point…) but because they’re willing to take their new ideas and try them out, even though odds are some of them will end up at the bottom of a wastepaper basket.

     But not all of them.  
    I’m going to write again. I’m tired of stressing because I’ll never be as good as I want to be, and I’m tired of wasting good ideas because I’m afraid they won’t work. I want to write what I love whether it ends up being any good or not. At least I’ll be getting something down on paper, and at least I’ll have fun doing it.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Taking Stock: February 2016

Rainy day in the city:

Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem my fave. Kids books. I still have them all. X:


Ready for: Spring. The weather’s been a little warmer for the past couple of days and I’m praying it sticks.
Studying: Sociology, Math, Composition, and Atlantic World History--all tough but interesting.
Making: A commonplace book for my favorite quotes. For now it’s a pile of hole-punched pages, but I plan on binding them together once they’re all filled up.
Liking: Long waits in the library.
Visiting: Washington D.C. The Air and Space Museum and the The Museum of the American Indian.
Deciding: To write what makes me happy, not what I think I should be writing.
Reading: Lots of good books but not many great books. My favorites this month were Passager (a story by Jane Yolen where Merlin’s a feral child abandoned in the woods; you really should read it), Career of Evil, The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge, A Year Down Yonder, and After Iris.
Listening: To "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers and "In a Big Country" by Big Country.
Watching: Crimson Peak. Creepy, gruesome, and very, very Gothic.
Rewatching: Doc Martin seasons 3-4, Supernatural season 2.
Hoping: To blog more in March, but I’m not making any promises!
Wishing: For a house by the ocean where I could write and read and go for long walks and be cute and quirky and never worry about anything.
Feeling: Hopeful and excited. I feel like February was a month for recharging, and March will be the month for getting things done. (I always feel like this. But this time I really mean it [fingers crossed].)

All pictures via Pinterest.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Finding Inspiration in Winter


  Finding inspiration to write (or just to be happy and get through the day) can be tough for me no matter the season. But these past couple weeks, thanks to slush, gloomy days, and piles of college homework, it’s been about as easy as sucking jell-o through a straw. Spring feels incredibly faraway, so I decided I’d better find some ways to cheer myself up in the meantime.

1. Brew some tea
They’re a couple of things you can do to enjoy a gloomy day, and slurping down a mug of hot tea always works for me. Drink it while journaling or staring out the window if you want to feel especially artistic/cozy. My favorite flavors are Jasmine, Lemon Zinger, and Maple Sugar.

2. Read good books
One of my resolutions for this year is not to finish books I don’t like. I’m one of those people who feels really guilty if I don’t finish a book I started, but I just don’t have the time to waste on books that don’t grab me. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to required reading. :) Some of my favorites this month have been A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck and After Iris by Natasha Farrant.    

3. Watch good movies/TV shows
When snow cancelled college for almost a week, my sister and I spent our evenings rewatching Doc Martin. Both books and movies help when I’m feeling drained or depressed.

4. Try something new
I’m not a fantastic artist (or even an okay one) but I do like to doodle and play with markers, pens, and my little sister’s watercolors. I’ve also tried tea-stain art and collage. It’s wonderful to play around without worrying about impressing anyone.

5. Just write
A couple days ago I sat down and spit out a short, four-page story about the Nativity from the point of view of the innkeeper’s daughter. I may never edit it (in the first draft, at least, I didn’t feel very emotionally connected to the characters) but it’s encouraging to finish something.

6. Go places
Last weekend I took a bus down to DC to visit The Museum of the American Indian. It was my first time making the trip alone, so I spent way too much time worrying about catching the bus back, but I also walked through some beautiful exhibits. My favorite was Kay WalkingStick: An American Artist. I loved seeing how her style evolved over the years, and how her heritage influenced her art. Plus, I got to see her sketchbooks. Obviously I can’t visit DC every day, but taking a walk or going to the library can be just as inspiring.

How are you guys coping this winter?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge

  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, but I love picture books. Super-detailed, nature-inspired, Beatrix-Potter-esque ones especially. So I expected to like the Brambly Hedge books, which are pretty much the definition of “super-detailed, nature-inspired, and Beatrix-Potter-esque”. I actually worried that they’d be too much like Beatrix Potter, and I’d waste an evening reading rip-offs.

  Luckily for me, Brambly Hedge isn’t a rip-off. It’s more cutesy, and not as dark as, say, The Tale of Mr. Todd, where a bunch of baby rabbits are kidnapped and stuffed into a stove. But the books are full of details about life in the hedge. The mice run a dairy mill and a flour mill, work paw-driven looms, and dig interconnected tunnels between their houses when it snows. It’s all incredibly accurate, and apparently the author/illustrator, Jill Barklem, spent years researching old agricultural practices to make sure she got the details right.

  The illustrations are also incredibly detailed--and delicious. They’re too many pies, cakes, and puddings to count, and I think the food actually ended up being my favorite part of the whole book. I mean, how can you resist descriptions like these?

  “Mrs. Crustybread baked a huge hazelnut cake with layers of thick cream, and Wilfred’s mother decorated it. Mrs. Apple made some of her special primrose puddings.”
--Spring Story

  “All the kitchens along Brambly Hedge were warm and busy. Hot soups, punches and puddings bubbled, and in the ovens pies browned and sizzled.”
--Winter Story

 And yes, it’s always the girl mice who end up doing the cooking, but I almost don’t care because if I could move to Brambly Hedge, I would.

 The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge includes the first four books in the series and an interview with Jill Barklem, where she talks about her inspirations and creative process. It’s perfect for curling up with after a tough week (like I did) or if you’re looking for a book that makes you hungry. If you like picture books, I can almost guarantee you’ll fall in love with this one.